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Understanding Basic Woodworking Terms

If you’ve got a lot of experience with woodworking, then all of the technical terms aren’t much of a mystery. But, if you’re an amateur that just loves doing woodwork as a hobby or likes doing your own home repairs, some of the terms used can be pretty confusing.

By knowing what each term means, you can get a better visualized idea of what the process includes. And, having some idea of what the outcome is suppose to be can mean the difference between a successful project and one that ends up in the scrap pile!

If the project plans includes a mitered joint, it simply means that the two ends are cut a different angles so that they will fit together without any gap being left. A perfectly square corner has a 90* angle, to achieve this you would just cut each end at a 45* angle, when placed together they will create the perfect corner!

Professional carpenters or do it yourself carpenters that work with miters a lot usually have a miter saw. But, for most people that just do woodworking as a hobby or hobbyists or do small home repairs, a miter box generally does the job. A miter box is a small jig that the wood fits into, the sides are pre-cut with guides, you insert the hand saw into the guide to cut the wood and there’s no guess work!

A crosscut is just like the name implies, it’s a cut that goes across the grain of the board. There’s slightly more resistance when cutting against the grain of the wood, but saw blades with larger teeth can make it a snap. A rip cut is just the opposite of a crosscut, it’s when you cut the wood in the direction that the woods grain is going.

If you need to plane a piece of wood, you just need to remove some layers to make it thinner. There are various types of wood planes, but the most common is a hand plane. The plane will have a small handle to hold while you slide it across the wood, an attached blade shaves layers off the wood.

One place that planing comes in handy is around doors or windows. Often, over time your homes foundation may shift, or moisture may cause the wood frames around doors or windows to swell. The result is a window or door that doesn’t close properly. Instead of replacing the entire frame piece, you simply shave some of the wood off so that it’s flush again.

If you have a lot of planing projects, you may want to consider purchasing an electric plane. They come in all different sizes, from smaller ones that you can carry around like a drill, to sizes that are not portable. Electric planes are mainly used when you need to reduce the thickness on large areas of wood.

An electric plane can be very handy if you already have a lot of wood that is too thick for the project you want to do. And, the new trend is to make furniture and wood accessories out of vintage boards. Most older wood wasn’t always cut in perfect sizes, the thickness can vary just enough that when they’re put together the surface isn’t completely flat.

You may rarely run across a project that requires a mortise, but when you do you, you’re probably going wonder what it means. The most common places that you find a mortise is on doors. A mortise is an area of the wood that is removed so that another item can sit in the wood and be flush with the woods surface, such as the area where a hinge attaches to a door frame.

You can make a mortise with a sharp utility knife or a wood chisel. The surface should be as smooth as possible, but it doesn’t even have to be perfectly smooth since the hinge will cover it. If you enjoy making hope chests, cabinets or even jewelry boxes, you’ll need to make mortises quite often.

How To Apply Weather Stripping To a Garage Door

Many homeowners prepare for cold weather by insulating, caulking and apply weather stripping to their homes. But, one of the most forgotten places that needs to be weather stripped is the garage door. While hardly anyone heats their garage, sealing the cracks can still help in keeping lot’s of cold air out.

Weather stripping your garage door can help to protect everything that’s stored in your garage even if you don’t heat it. Many items can survive the winter out of the damp air, that wouldn’t last if they were sitting out in the elements.

And, if you have the convenience of a door from the home directly into the garage, weather stripping can help keep lot’s of cold air from entering your home each time you open the garage door. But, since garages aren’t normally heated, most people don’t think to insulate them.

Most garage doors will last for the entire life of your home if they’re taken care of and properly maintained. Weatherstripping will keep moisture from leaking to the inside of the door that will not only damage the door, but can affect the way your garage door opener works as well. Moisture gathering on the metal parts of the door opener can lead to rusty components that stick.

Many homes have rooms or small apartment like additions over their garages. Another great advantage to insulating your garage is that the cold air won’t leak into the above room or suck all of the heat out of it wasting energy.

A garage door that has been properly installed and maintained should have even space all the way around the door. However, the door normally doesn’t fit up against the frame and this small gap is where weather stripping needs to be applied.

Garage door weather stripping is made of rubber and is very flexible. As the door opens and closes, the rubber flexes and forms a tight seal around the door. Eventually, heat and cold damage the rubber and it can become hard and crack. Sometimes the rubber stripping gets torn from bumps with lawnmowers, bicycles or other items.

Most home improvement stores and hardware stores carry rubber weather stripping. It generally comes in either white or brown and is pre-attached to a plastic backing that can be nailed right to the door frame. Measure the existing weather stripping to make sure that you get the correct size for your garage door.

When removing the old stripping be very careful not to damage the frame. You can use a hammer to remove the nails, but a small pry bar usually works better since the area is small. After you’ve removed all of the old stripping, check the area to make sure that none of the nails have pulled through the stripping and are still in the frame.

It’s best if you start attaching the new weather stripping at the top of the door. Depending on what the backing is made of, you can usually cut the stripping with a utility knife or a sharp pair of utility scissors. Measure the length across the top and cut a piece of stripping to the correct size.

The weather stripping can be over lapped slightly at the corners so that there aren’t any leaks. Nail spacing is a personal preference, but the closer the nails the less chance there will be of leaks. You can also use an electric staple gun if you have one handy.

After you’ve attached the top section of the stripping, measure, cut and attach the side pieces. Applying the weather stripping with the garage door closed will give you a much more efficient seal. With the door closed, you’ll be able to see any gaps and adjust the stripping before attaching it.

Don’t forget to inspect the weather stripping around the door that enters your home from the garage. And, if you have a window installed on the side of your garage, weather strip it as well. Any amount of cold air that you can keep out of your garage will help keep your home warmer and reduce your utility bill!

Tips For Sparkling, Streak Free Glass and Windows

There’s a reason that maids and house cleaners often say, “I don’t do windows!”. Seems like no matter how much you clean them or what you clean them with, there’s always streaks left behind. Almost all commercial window cleaners claim to be “streak free”, but I’ve yet to find one that actually lives up to that claim!

One way to reduce the amount of streaks left behind is to never clean your windows while the sun is hitting them. The heat from the sun dries up the cleaning solution too quickly and it will cause all kinds of streaks! And, if you don’t have a choice but to clean them while the sun is hitting them, clean small areas at a time.

If you’ve ever had to run in and out of your house trying to figure out which side of the glass a streak or smudge was on, try this simple idea. Use different strokes for each side of the glass. When you clean one side, wipe the glass up and down, for the other side, wipe the glass from side to side.

To remove grease and soil from your windows, use two quarts of warm water with 1/4 cup of ammonia mixed in. This especially works well for windows in kitchens where grease from cooking travels through the air and settles on the glass.

If you live close to a road or highway, grease and oil from automobiles can even collect on your windows. For really thick built up grease and soil, combine two cups of rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup of ammonia and a gallon of warm water. Shake it up to get it all mixed really well and pour some into a spray bottle.

If you have a fish aquarium, then you’ve probably had to deal with removing hard water deposits. I don’t like to use chemicals on my aquarium since you can’t ever be sure you’ve gotten them thoroughly rinsed off. Try 1/4 cup of vinegar mixed with two quarts of warm water.
For really stubborn deposits, use vinegar full strength on a sponge.

Cut glass is easy to clean if you just use a little baking soda and a damp sponge or cloth. Gently rub the glass and then rinse with some clean water and use a soft lint free cloth to polish it to a shine.

If none of these seem to perform in the way that you want them to, you can try a tablespoon of lemon juice mixed in one quart of water. Borax also makes a really good window cleaner, mix three cups of water and two tablespoons of the borax.

Glass is pretty expensive to replace and pretty easy to scratch! You can rub a little dab of regular toothpaste onto the scratch and then polish it with a soft rag. Mixing equal parts of white vinegar and dry mustard is also suppose to be really good at fixing scratches.

Several years ago, I had a friend that would not clean her windows with anything but newspapers. She said that she never had a problem with streaks when she used newspapers. But, you shouldn’t use them if you have someone in the home that is allergic to the inks and dyes in the paper.

Preventative Care To Maintain Your Septic System

Septic systems are brilliant inventions that eliminate waste and add nutrients to the soil at the same time! Microorganisms in the waste works inside the septic tank to break the waste down into a liquid form. When the septic tank gets full, the liquid overflows into the drainage pipes that lead to a leech bed or field. The liquid then seeps through the holes in the pipes and back into the soil adding nutrients!

Problems with septic systems occur because not everything that gets flushed down the toilet can be broken down into a liquid form. Problems can also arise when the septic tank is filled to quickly for the organisms to process the contents into a liquid form. Eventually, all of these solid waste products will fill the tank and you have a serious problem on your hands.

Once the septic tank has gotten to that point, you will probably have to replace it or have it pumped out by a professional septic service. It costs thousands of dollars to replace a septic system, but with a little preventative maintenance your septic tank will last for many years.

Having your septic tank pumped out every few years can prevent the mess and expense caused by a clogged system. It’s also a really good opportunity to have the septic maintenance personel to do a visual inspection of the septic tank to check for any physical damage. Have him look for any cracks, loose pipes or any other problems with the system.

You should never spend the whole day doing laundry! The water used during a couple of loads of laundry each day is easier for the system to handle than the amount of water that accumulates from washing clothes all day long. A septic tank that is full of water can’t process the waste properly and is one of the most common causes of a clogged system.

When you shop for detergents and automatic dishwasher soap, always choose liquid. Powdered detergents contain fillers that can quickly build up and clog up your whole system. And, never allow grease to enter the system. The grease will gather in the holes inside the pipes of the leech field and you may have to dig up your whole yard to find the clog.

Many products that are labeled as “flushable” should never be flushed down the toilet! Products such as diapers and femine care products will fill the system up very quickly. They may actually be made of materials that can be broken down into liquids, but it takes a long time for this to occur. In the meantime, they will sit in the system and eventually cause lot’s of problems.

When you’re doing your landscaping projects, you should never plant anything larger than flowers over the septic tank or the on top of the leech field. It may take awhile, but roots from trees and shrubs will grow large enough to do a lot of damage to the tank and pipes.

While there are many commercial products on the market that make claims of clearing your septic system, you really shouldn’t use them. Most of these types of products contain chemicals that are severely damaging to the soil. Many of the chemicals in these septic products are even reported to be carcinogenic.

Never park your car, a boat or any other vehicle on top of your leech bed. Even though the pipes are several feet under the ground, the weight can be very damaging to the pipes, especially if the ground is soft. It’s just best to not take any chances of having a busted pipe.

Properly maintaining a septic system is fairly simple. It basically comes down to just watching what gets flushed into the system and limiting the amount of water that goes into the system at one time.

How To Choose A Gas Fireplace

Gas fireplaces provide a lot of advantages over wood burning fireplaces. With wood you have to have a place for storage, you have to go out in the cold to get more wood and you have to worry about it going out in the middle of the night. And, if you purchase fresh wood, it needs to sit for around a year to get properly seasoned for burning.

You can purchase either propane or natural gas fireplaces that have logs that look just like wood. The logs will be housed inside a firebox and there’s usually a glass front on the stove. You can just turn a switch to start the fire and have instant heat.

Gas is a lot cleaner than wood, there’s no ashes or chips of wood to clean up. Gas is also much more energy efficient than wood. And, you never have to worry about not having heat is the electric goes off like you do with heat pumps or furnaces.

There are several basic types of gas fireplaces to choose from, free standing, factory built and inserts. Free standing fireplaces are the most effective of the three. Since they aren’t placed against a wall, the room receives heat from all sides of the fireplace.

Factory built fireplaces are usually installed when the home is being built or if major renovations are done. And, if you already have an existing fireplace that you want to convert to gas, inserts can be installed. They’re just placed inside the fireplace and no major construction is required inside the home.

If you do choose to install gas burining inserts, you will need to have your chimney relined. You will also need to make sure that you have a approved vent installed so that fumes don’t escape into the home. You can install gas fireplaces yourself, but it’s much safer to have a experienced professional do the job.

Before purchasing a gas fireplace, make sure that you check the government rating labels. Modern fireplaces are much more energy efficient than they once were, but some will still provide you with a much better savings on your gas bill than others.

There are several features to look for to make sure that you get the most energy efficient gas fireplace. Choose one that is direct vented, it will save energy and also be safer. A fireplace that is equipped with an automatic starter will use less gas than one that has a pilot light.

A fireplace that has a circulating fan will force the heat out into the room. It will help the fireplace keep a larger area nice and warm. Try to choose a stove that has a ceramic glass front instead of one that is made of tempered glass. Ceramic transmits heat much better and it’s also shatter resistant.

Fireplace units that are equipped with a secondary heat exchanger provide a lot more heat than units without them. And, one of the most important features for saving energy is a variable control. A fireplace that has a variable control gives you the option of regulating the amount of gas used by adjusting the temperature.

Some variable controls only allow you to adjust to around 70% while others will give you more control in adjusting it to 20%. And, if you’d like to heat more than just one room with the fireplace, make sure that it can be connected into the duct work.

Ventilation, Safety and Efficiency Tips For Using a Gas Fireplace

If you’ve decided that this is the year that you’re going to buy a gas fireplace, the first thing you will need to do is to decide how you want it to be vented. The venting system is very important because it’s what keeps gasses from escaping into your home.

The best choice for both safety and efficiency is a direct vent system. A direct vent uses two pipes, one pipe is used to bring air from the outside into the firebox. The other pipe is used as an exhaust to remove combustion to the outside instead of into the home.

This type of gas fireplace is much safer, the firebox will be sealed. And, it’s much more efficient because it doesn’t use the air in the room for combustion. This way none of the air that is already warm is going to get released outside.

A natural draft vent system requires a vertical chimney to draw combustion out of the fireplace through a flue. To prevent fluctuations from outside air pressure from reaching the burner, a draft hood is needed to isolate the burner.

Though rarely used, power venting is a great choice to use when you don’t have the option of installing a flue. It needs an electric fan to provide venting and doesn’t need a draft hood. Power venting doesn’t hardly use any of the rooms air at all making it very efficient.

You should never intall a fireplace that doesn’t have a vent. Without a vent to direct carbon monoxide and combustion to the outside, all of the gasses are released into the home. Avoid any type of vent free stove or fireplace, the fumes are deadly.

To help improve the efficiency of your fireplace always keep the glass clean. A clean glass will allow the maximum amount of heat to be released into the room. And, if you have a fireplace that has a pilot light, turn it off when you’re not using the fireplace.

Before using any fireplace, make sure that the area surrounding the fireplace is thoroughly clean. Not only can contaminants and debris easily catch fire, it can seriously damage the motor, fan and burner in the fireplace.

If your fireplace has a pilot light and it goes out, make sure to wait at least five minutes for any gas to evaporate before re-lighting it. Never clean the glass on your fireplace until it is completely cool, even shatter resistant glass might break if you try to clean it while it’s hot.

You should have your fireplace inspected by a professional at least once a year. The best time to have this done is right before cool weather arrives. If you have it done in the spring, something could go wrong with it while it’s sitting all summer.

To keep your family extra safe, always install a carbon monoxide detector in the same room where you install the fireplace. If you have more than one fireplace in your home, install a detector in each of the rooms. A detector located in a hallway might not alert you to fumes if the fireplace is behind a closed door!

If you’re using a new fireplace for the first time, carefully read all of the manufacturers instructions. Most companies will have a toll free number and if you have any questions that aren’t answered in the manual either call the company or a heating contractor.

If you smell any odors or gas while using the fireplace, turn it off and have it checked out. Keep all of the air vents cleared of snow, ice or any other debris such as leaves. And, clean the fireplace fan regularly.

A fireplace can add so much to the beauty and warmth of your home, but if not properly maintained your home could go up in flames. Protect your home and your family by doing regular inspections and keeping your fireplace clean.

Cheap and Free Ways to Decorate Your Home

Redecorating your home can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you’re on a tight budget. We’d all like to have rooms that are worthy of a magazine layout. But, unlike professional interior decorators we don’t have tons of accessories and money at our disposal. Most of us also haven’t got a degree in the art of decorating.

There are some simple designer tips that you can follow to give your home a more professionally decorated look. And, these tips don’t even require a large decorating budget! With these simple decorating steps you can use many items that you already have.

Most people always hang family pictures and art work too high. They will look much better is they’re hung at eye level. You’re eye level might be too high or too low depending on your height. Designers recommend that art work and photos be hung at the height of an average person. Pictures are much easier to view at this level and they also blend in with your furnishings better.

Every room should have a focal point! A focal point can be anything that you want to use to attract attention. It could be a painting, a family portrait, a fireplace or a piece of furniture. Once you’ve chosen a focal point, decorate with accessories that will accentuate it.

Balancing out all of your accessories can also make your room look much more stylish. Instead of having groups of items in even numbers, go for groupings of odd numbers of accessories. For instance, if you have a set of vases, group three or five together instead of four or six. Most sets of anything come in an even number of pieces, but if you only use part of the set it will make a big difference in the look.

Wallpaper can change the entire look of a room, but it can be fairly expensive. If you’re on a low budget, consider using a wallpaper border instead. There’s so many beautiful borders to choose from that you can find one to match any decor. And, they’re pretty inexpensive. You’ll be amazed at how much the look of the room will change by just adding a simple border.

You can never go wrong by decorating with neutral colors. Using neutral colors will allow you to use an almost unlimited number of other colors as a contrast. It’s also a great idea if you have to relocate a lot for your job or other reasons. Since, neutral colors will match almost any decor, you won’t have to start your decor from scratch every time you move.

Another really big expense in decorating is curtains and drapery. If you have any experience at all with sewing, you can easily make curtains from sets of sheets. If you don’t feel confident enough in your sewing abilities to make actual curtains, cut the sheets in strips, use the iron in hemming tape and drape them over your curtain rods.

Sheets are also great to use for recovering throw pillows. If there’s not a huge difference in price, opt for a set of king sized sheets so that you’ll have plenty of material. Make your curtains, cover your pillows and then use any leftover material to make some small table cloths or runners for your coffee table and end tables.

If you love the look of dried flowers but hate the prices, collect flowers dried by mother nature! Some of the prettiest flower arrangements I’ve had have been dried flowers, bulbs and other items I’ve collected on a fall hike.

If you live in an area where you have access to a field or wooded hillside, you can find all kinds of beautiful dried plants in the fall. I’ve never treated mine with anything, but if you want you can either buy a spray sealant or even use hair spray to help keep them from falling apart.

Simple Ideas For Adding Storage Space To Your Kitchen

There never seems to be enough storage space in the home. No matter how many closets, cabinets or drawers you have, you could always use a extra space. There’s nothing more aggravating than having to dig through stuff to find something or worse yet, not being able to find what you need.

With all the small appliances that you need in a kitchen, it’s one place that could really use extra storage. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a huge kitchen, you’re probably always looking for ideas to make your small kitchen seem larger.

Often, getting more storage space under the kitchen cabinets is just a simple matter of organization. You’d be amazed at how much extra space you’ll find just by keeping your cabinets in order. Another great way to add extra storage underneath the kitchen sink is with stackable shelves.

Sinks generally don’t have shelves under them and by adding just one stackable shelf on each side can help keep stuff more organized and within reach. Plastic stacking shelves are fairly inexpensive and many times you can purchase them separately.

Adding a pot rack is a decorative way to add storage! Pot racks come in various sizes and styles and can be hung almost anywhere. Not only will it look nice, it will get some of your pots and pans out of the way and give you extra storage in the cabinets.

Besides all of the appliances we have sitting on our counters, we usually have knick knacks. While everyone loves a nicely decorated kitchen, when counter space is limited they can be in the way. Adding  some nice wooden shelves for canisters and other items can clear up counter space.

You can even add small shelves above windows to hold items like a collection of plates, tea kettles. baskets or anything else. Many people even add shelves all along the top of the wall to hold their favorite decorative items.

Baskets are another item that can add storage and be decorative at the same time! You can use them to hold dish rags, fruit, large spoons and ladels or anything you need to get out of the way. I have several of the half baskets hanging on the wall and use one for mail. I have even seen baskets hanging from large hooks underneath kitchen wall cabinets!

Something just as simple as adding cup hooks underneath your cabinets can empty all of the cabinet space that your coffee cups use. And, the more empty space you can get, the more storage you’ll have for other items.

Finding ways of using wasted space in your kitchen is one of the best ways to add extra storage. While your stove and refrigerator have to sit against a wall, you can add a corner shelf and take advantage of unused space. Corner shelves come in many different designs and colors and you should easily be able to find one that will add to your kitchens theme.

Many places even offer them unfinished so that you can paint them the way you want. The storage space underneath makes a great place to store large pots, pans, bowls or any other cooking items. The shelves are great for canisters, cook books, cookie jars and many other items that are taking up valuable counter space.

You can also add one of the standing shelves that sits over the back of  the kitchen sink. They’re not very wide, but it’s extra storage for any smaller items that you might have. And, they can also add to your decor.

The vinyl coated racks for cooker lids, aluminum foil and other items can utilize space on your cabinet doors. I even purchased several of the small plastic containers that have suctions cups and are made for showers. I removed the suction cups, inserted screws into the holes and hung them on the inside of my sink doors. I use them for storing packages of seasoning like taco mix, gravies and powdered drink mixes.